Reclaiming Jesus

Recently I read a terrible book, God and Donald Trump by Stephen E. Strang. Donald Trump has committed no sin, no sexual indiscretion, told no lie, and abused no ethnic group that Strang cannot justify, dismiss, and excuse. He pushes the preposterous notion that Trump is a different person than the one who has been through three marriages, run a gambling empire, stiffed contractors, dodged the draft, and lied repeatedly. Strang believes that Trump is the chosen instrument sent by God to save America. When confronted with Trump’s many sins and his refusal to repent of those sins, Strang excuses with, “we didn’t elect him to be a pastor to America but our Commander in Chief.” The ten minutes Strang spent with Trump changed his life.

Most troubling of all, Strang claims that he is a Pentecostal Christian.

While there may be purported reasons—economic, political, personal—to support a man like Trump, there can be no specifically Christian reasons. I predict that Strang and his Prosperity gospel friends who have attempted to advocate for Trump as Christians will reap a bitter harvest in the future when their constituency realizes that their pastoral leaders have allowed politics to trump theology, their commitment to the political right, to hijack their calling to teach the Bible to their flocks.

I find it revealing that, while Strang touts Trump as God’s answer to what’s needed in America, in God and Donald Trump Strang hardly ever refers to Jesus Christ. Whoever Strang’s generic “God” is—the godlet who motivates and blesses Donald Trump—it is not the God who has fully, perfectly self-revealed in Jesus Christ. I think it wise that when Strang attempts to provide biblical justification for Trumpism, he refers to various passages from the Old Testament, always using the generic “God” rather than referring to Jesus. It’s clear that Strang is more concerned with America than with the church of Jesus Christ. Strang’s book attempts to baptize a man and his family who have had minimal connections with the church or the practice of the Christian faith so it’s wise from Strang to keep Jesus out of it. Jesus Christ, in his person and his work, is a rebuke to Trumpism. Strang’s attempt to invoke “God” to justify Xenophobia, border armament, immigrant bashing, gambling, dirty talk, and adultery may be good politics but it’s terrible abuse of the Bible.

Tonight a group of my Christian friends (like Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, and Michael Curry) are showing the world what true Bible-believing Evangelicals look like. They are having a service and a march to the White House in the name of Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected. We devised a statement, “Recovering Jesus Christ,” which is our attempt to demonstrate how Christians think in the present crisis. “Jesus is Lord. That is our foundational confession.” The statement attempts to move from specific biblical, Christological affirmations to a range of rejections and affirmations that are related to our faith that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and all other competitors are not. The current President is never mentioned in our statement because we’re preachers who think our highest vocation is to preach Jesus rather than to ingratiate ourselves to politicians of the right or of the left.

I’ve just returned from a day with a dedicated group of pastors and church leaders in Greensboro where we discussed the implications of “Reclaiming Christ.” We left that gathering with renewed dedication to minister in our churches by speaking and acting in the name of Jesus Christ, the name above all other names, the way, the truth, and the life.

Years ago, I heard a great biblical scholar say that Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, insures that we are unable “to make God mean anything we would like God to be.” Time and again, in the church’s life, Jesus Christ has broken free of the clutches of those who have attempted to use him to bless their human schemes and programs. He will have his way in the world, no matter who is in the White House. That’s a good thing to remember in a time such as this.

Will

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